Toc Toc Woodman

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 03-04-2013

Toc Toc WoodmanCan… not… resist… Monty… Python…

[full volume] “I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK…”

Mayday’s release of the English version of Toc Toc Woodman comes with one major advantage over other stacking games like Jenga. Along with the requisite stacking pieces, Toc Toc Woodman comes with an axe. This plastic toy axe stole the show every time I opened the game. I know it is supposed to be a woodman’s axe but the proportions and blade design look much more like an executioner’s axe than that of a lumberjack. Be warned: when playing this game, especially for the first time, budget some axe appreciation time.

And watch your fingers.

Major Fun AwardWhen you are finally ready for the game proper, you will find a very clever arrangement of plastic disks and arcs that stack to form the trunk of a tree. Each disk is surrounded by a ring of four pieces of bark. The disk and accompanying ring of bark is stacked on top of others to make the tree. Players take turns hitting the tree with—wait for it— the axe so that only the bark pieces fall to the table. Think of this as the anti-Jenga in which you are trying to knock down pieces instead of build them up.

You get 1 point for each piece of bark you knock off. Knocking off one of the disks earns you -5 points. The chance of knocking off one or more of the disks increases as the tree is battered turn after turn. It doesn’t help that your first instinct (certainly mine) when handed an axe is to give your target a resounding whack! If you knock over several disks you get the bark but you also get the negative points, and late in the game there is little bark left.

A light touch is required. Who knew lumberjacks should be so dainty?

Rules are included but illustrated rules are also printed on the box itself. It is always a good sign when a game this fun—Major Fun even—can be fully explained without the need to waste any more paper. The game creates lots of tension and laughs and moments of fist pounding, teeth grinding frustration. But mainly laughs. Games are quick and almost any one of any age can play.

Highly recommended.

For 2+ players, ages 5+

Toc Toc Woodman was designed by Justin Oh and © 2011 by Mayday Games who is offering 25% off Toc Toc by using coupon code: MajorTocTocDiscount (Limit 1 per customer. Valid to first 25 customers.)

Crokinole

Filed Under (Dexterity) by Will Bain on 24-03-2013

CrokinoleCrokinole has been making its way toward the Major Fun Award for almost 140 years. Although the names of those who built the first Crokinole board are lost to us, we do know that the game emerged from Ontario in the early 1870s and has been a popular table-top game ever since. It is related to other classic accuracy games like shuffleboard, carrom, and pitchnut, as well as more modern “sliders” like Fastrack, RoadZters, PitchCar, and (in some ways) Wey Kick.

The board is a circle: 30 inches across with a playing surface that is 26 inches in diameter. The playing surface is surrounded by a 2 inch “moat” that catches the wooden disks that players flick about. In a 2 player or 2 team game, each side gets 12 wooden disks that they flicked across the playing surface in order to score points. The playing area is divided into 4 concentric rings, each ring has a point value (5, 10, 15, 20). To complicate matters, 8 pegs stand sentinel around the edge of the 15 point ring.

Opponents alternate flicking the wooden pucks. The puck must start on the line farthest from the center of the board. If you are the first to shoot OR if your opponents do not have any disks on the board, your disk must come to rest within the 15 point ring. If it does, it stays there. If it does not, the disk is removed to the moat. If your opponent has a piece on the board, you must hit that piece before your disk comes to rest. If you fail to hit your opponent’s disk, yours is removed to the moat.

Major Fun AwardAs the first few disks that stay on the board clog up the 15 point ring, new disks start to bump them out. Now players must decide if they will try to navigate the treacherous 15 point ring or try to eliminate opponent disks from the outer rings. There is a significant amount of strategy involved to complement the manual dexterity of aiming and flicking the disks.

The disks themselves are surprisingly interesting. They are shaped so that one side is “faster” than the other. One side is slightly convex and one side is slightly concave. The convex side has less surface area to rub against the table and therefore slides farther and faster than the concave side. Knowing which side to use and how much force to apply adds another level of complexity to the game.

The center ring is actually a hole in the board, only slightly wider than the diameter of one of the disks. If a disk falls completely into the hole, that team scores 20 points and the disk is removed from the board (so that others may have the joy of a 20 point “bullseye”). It is not uncommon that you knock your opponent into the 20 point hole.

Oh the shame…

The game is Major Fun. Lots of tension. Lots of groans from shots that are close but not quite. Lots of fist pumping when a shot is perfect (or lucky). There is a reason it has endured for over a century and a reason that there are international competitive tournaments for this game. Mayday has done a fantastic job of making a high quality playing surface and providing us with clear rules (complete with suggestions for novice players and rule variations to keep things lively). Find a place for this game in your home (maybe someone could build a combination Wey Kick / Crokinole game table…) and it will help while away those indoor hours (like the one produced by the March snow storm that is descending on my home right now…)

For 2-4 players, ages 8+

Crokinole, as tasted by Major Fun and our merry band of Games Tasters, was brought to us by the good folks at Mayday Games.

Monster Falle

Filed Under (Cooperation, Dexterity, Kids Games) by Will Bain on 02-03-2013

Monster FalleKosmos has a prize winner with their dexterity and racing game, Monster Trap (Monster-Falle for you deutschephiles). The game won a Kinderspiel des Jahres and a Deutscher Spielpreis in 2011 and in 2013 the coveted Major Fun Award (I’ll wait for the appreciative murmurs to die down…)

The artwork, the clever mechanical design, and the materials are beautiful. They invite play and giggles. Maybe it’s just that some words sound more fun in German (like Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung for “speed limit”) but at the bottom of our game box (we played the German version) it says “Schubs… und schwups!” Who does not want to play with Schubs and schwups?

Players race to capture monsters and push them into the pit in the center of the house. There are twelve monsters scattered through the corridors of your house. When the timer starts, two players draw a monster card, find that monster on the board, drop a monster sack figure on it, and then push the monster into the pit. If the Monster-in-a-sack figure falls over (usually the result of running into a wall too hard) then the players put it back and start over. Monsters successfully caught in the pit are added to each player’s score and then two new players get a turn.

Major Fun AwardThe complicating factor is the method of pushing (“schubbing”) the monsters around the board. Four plastic sticks cross the board at right angles to each other (2 cross east-west and the other 2 cross north-south). Each player controls one set of sticks and cooperation is essential. The combination of speed, dexterity, and cooperation with your opponent keeps things lively, especially for younger players.

The game also provides for a variation in which the monsters have to first visit parts of the house before being shoved into the pit. There are several spots marked on the board where the monster can pet the cat, take a bath, or get a snack from the fridge. A small deck of cards is used to tell the players where to send the monster.

The instructions are very clearly illustrated. Our copy was in German and we could figure out the board set-up just by looking at the pictures. Board Game Geek has a link to an English translation (register, for free, if not a member to view) which we needed for the rule-variation and the scoring system (a very clever way to keep score of individuals even when they have to cooperate with their opponents).
And no monsters were harmed in the playing of the game. They seem to like the pit.

For 2-4 players, ages 6+

Monster-Falle was designed by Inka and Markas Brand and is © 2011 by Kosmos.

WeyKick

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 28-01-2013

wooden tabletop soccerWeyKick has been likened to foosball and to tabletop soccer, but, despite all foosball or soccer-like claims and appearances, Weykick is unique, and uniquely fun.

Before we get carried away by the game, let’s get carried away by the quality of this all-wood, beautifully crafted invitation to play. Yes, some assembly is required. And, yes, you will need a Phillips screwdriver. And, further, you’ll have to read the very terse instructions carefully enough to understand that the shorter two of the allen-wrench-driven bolts are used to attach the two legs to the long, padded wooden support. All-in-all, for the careful instruction-follower, we’re talking maybe 15 minutes max. Fully assembled, it’s a big game. Too big for your normal games closet. More like a piece of furniture. It comes in a sturdy box, but that’s like telling you your bicycle comes in a sturdy box. Once you put the game together, unless you have to move, the box is best thought of as a sturdy contribution to your local recycler.

OK. So much for impressive quality and size. Now on to the Major Fun part.

There are four wooden player-pieces, two to a side. Each player stands on a very strong magnet – strong enough to urge the manufacturer to recommend that the pacemaker-enabled should think twice before joining this particular fray. There are two cylinders that you place under the board, under each player. You can tell by the loud clicking sound that these magnets are significantly magnetic and contribute even more significantly to the, if you’ll forgive the expression, “attraction” of this surprisingly attractive game. There’s also a tiny soccer ball. It’s not quite round, which makes it roll a little less enthusiastically, which is precisely what is needed to maintain an illusion of precision control.

Major Fun AwardYou can play with two humans on a side (as a team, each controlling one player), or with one human, with a control cylinder in each hand. Since your hands are underneath the board, once you start playing, the wooden players seem to come alive. The above-mentioned long, padded wooden support prevents players from being able to move pass the center line. The some long, padded wooden support is often the cause for much hilarity when one becomes a tad overzealous in trying to smash the ball into one’s opponent’s territory causing the wooden player to become detached from its controlling magnet and to spin across the field, attaching itself with a resounding click to the side of an opposing piece.

If you’ve ever seen a soccer game, figuring out how to play WeyKick is almost intuitive. And, yes, depending on how competitive you are, or how sneaky your little child is, there are many rules that can be made and/or broken. There are ample opportunities for strategy and skill-development. There’s just enough luck to make you laugh when you need to. You can take it seriously. You can take it to a hospital or school or recreation or senior center. You can take it to your friend’s house and find yourself both appreciated and envied. Parents can play it with their kids. How much more major can you get?

Designed by Ulrich Weyel, available from Mayday games (a German import, currently offered at a considerable discount).

Elk Fest

Filed Under (Dexterity) by Will Bain on 20-01-2013

Elk FestThe grass is always greener on the other side…

Of the table.

Elk Fest (brought to our American shores through the combined talents of Kosmos Games and Mayfair Games) is a table-top game in which you shepherd a moose (yes, it is called ELK fest but as explained in the rules, a moose is considered an elk in Europe so suck it up Yankee and enjoy the game…) across a raging river—represented here by your table—in order to reach the succulent grasses on the other side. Each player is provided with a wooden moose, a starting platform, and three round wooden “stones” which the moose (meece? mooseses? müesi?) use to cross the dangerous waters to the other player’s starting platform.

Play is simple. On your turn you flick the grey stones. You get two flicks and you can flick any stones on which a moose is not standing. At the beginning of the game this generally mean you will flick your own stones, but as the players move toward the center of the river, and their stones come closer and closer, any free stone could be of strategic importance. Your goal, in flicking a stone, is to get it close enough to the moose so that it can put its front feet on a stone and keep its back feet on another stone (the starting platform counts as a stone).

Major Fun AwardOnce the müesi (I have a thing for umlauts) leave their platforms, careful flickage is important. If you knock any moose off its perch your turn ends and your opponent gets three flicks instead of two. This penalty also applies if you misjudge the distance between two stones, and your moose touches the table while you are attempting to bridge the gap.

Strategic flickage and placement opportunities abound. Sometimes flicking an opponent’s stone out of reach is better than moving your animal. Sometimes your moöse can trap stones for later use. Of course you can’t play defense all game, but as your müüs reaches the center of the table, these decisions must be made.

The game pieces are solid and fun to manipulate. The rules take all of a minute to understand, and there are some funny bits that make even that minute enjoyable. Elk Fest is a major fun way to spend a rainy or snowy or blisteringly hot day around the table.

For 2 players, ages 8+

Elk Fest designed by Hermann Huber. © 2006 by Kosmos and Mayfair Games, Inc.

Don’t Rock the Boat!

Filed Under (Dexterity, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 04-12-2012

Don’t Rock the Boat is a game of balance and dexterity. It’s for kids 5 and up. And, depending on the steadiness of your hand and mind at the time, you can play, too.

There are 16 very cute plastic penguin pirates. There’s a boat: a three-masted, pirate-ship-like boat, hollow, of course, plastic, of similar course; balanced rather precariously on a plastic wave. Before the game begins, someone sets the boat upon its wave, and the players then distribute the plastic pirate penguins equally. If the number of players results in an extra penguin or two, those penguins are thrown mercilessly into the box for the duration of the game.

Players then take turns placing their plastic pirate penguins anywhere on the boat. Those Crows’ Nests topping each mast are most inviting, but, as you can plainly see, only the center Crows’ Nest can be occupied without risking tippage. The safest place to place one’s plastic pirate penguin is near the base of the central mast. But even that proves to be a precarious plastic penguin pirate placement, nonetheless.

Tippage-risking is the name of the game. Well, actually, “boat-rocking” is perhaps a term more in keeping with the theme. The thing is, it’s very easy to rock the boat, and even one poorly placed plastic pirate penguin can be all it takes to upset things irrevocably.

Of all the games of balance and dexterity, Don’t Rock the Boat offers by far the largest and most varied plethora of plastic penguin pirate platforms and other surfaces upon one can try one’s dexterous balancing skills.

There’s nothing in the rules preventing a player from attempting to place two plastic pirate penguins concomitantly. I’m just saying.

Not recommended for the easily frustrated, but highly recommended for its Major Funnyness. Easy to learn. Takes maybe 5 minutes to play, or, in my case, 30 seconds. Funny. And, with great focus and skill, one can succeed in accommodating a surprising amount of plastic pirate penguins aboard the perilous poised privateer.

Period.

Fun for many reasons. From Patch Products.

HexActly

Filed Under (Creative, Dexterity, Family Games, Puzzles, Toys) by Bernie DeKoven on 09-09-2012

If you’re a parent of a pre-school child, say 3, 4, maybe even 5 years old, you’d think, just by looking at the cover of the box, that you’ve found a truly interesting, colorful, wooden puzzle that will fascinate and stimulate the intellect of your little sacred one. And, of course, you’d be closely approximating correctness, given your only partly informed estimation. If your child is a bit older, say school-age, you’d probably think that, though this toy has some obvious merit in inviting your little genius to explore the geometrical and mathematical properties of the hexagon, it will perhaps not be received with as much joy as you so parentally desire. And, in that judgment, you will have most unfortunately and perhaps even regretfully erred. And, should you likewise assume that this HexActly toy could bear no relevance whatsoever to the intellectual, creative, and general fun-needs of the adult, you’d be compounding your error, most egregiously.

HexActly is a puzzle. In fact, it’s a collection of puzzles – more than 50, puzzles, more, even, than 54. It’s also an enticing, and annotated invitation to the geometry of the hexagon, its delightfully hexagonal “learning guide” including instructions on how to draw hexagons, on the properties of regular and irregular hexagons, and a brief nuts-and-bolts exploration of the reason for the hexagonality of snowflakes, honeycombs, and, well, nuts and bolts.

HexActly is appropriately packaged in a hexagonal box. There are 24 wooden pieces: six single hexagons, six double hexagons, three triple hexagons, three quadruple hexagons and six  The box is colorfully illustrated with just enough examples of different structures that can be built using the collection of pieces included in the set. Some of the structures are three-dimensional, and require almost as much dexterity as reasoning to replicate.

The pieces come in five different, bright colors, inviting the eye and suggesting the possibility that you could not only create different structures, but also different patterns. Different colors might offer a different collection of shapes from the others. For example, though yellow and orange have exactly the same distribution of shapes, the other three colors each offer a different combination. So once you get refined enough in your exploration of the various designs you can create, you learn to work within the constraints of what each color offers.

There are three different levels of puzzles, and each includes a target shape, plus the challenge to create that shape with different amounts of pieces.

All in all, HexActly is a lovely invitation to creative and intellectual fun, and, as hard to believe as it may be, it’s as fun for a 3-year-old as it is for the cognitively mature. Fun? HexActly!

From Fatbrain Toys.

 

Animal upon Animal

Filed Under (Dexterity, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 22-07-2012

Haba‘s Animal upon Animal is a stacking game for two players. The pieces are small, made of wood, and designed so that there are many ways they can be stacked, more-or-less securely, one on top of the other.

There are 6 different kinds of animals, two of each, each a different color and shape, plus one larger, wrinkled-back alligator that serves as a base for the stacking game. There is also a comparatively large, wooden die which determines the game play.

Before you start playing, you divide the animals equally, so that both players have exactly the same animals. This is important, because each animal has a different shape, and the shape has a lot to do with how difficult the stacking task becomes.

Each turn begins with the roll of the die. If you roll a 1, you take one of your animals and place it anywhere on the alligator or any other animal that has already been played. If you roll a 2, then you get to place two of your animals. Since the object is to be the first player to no more animals left to stack, it’s clearly more advantageous to roll a 2 than a 1. If you roll the hand symbol you give any one of your unplayed animals to the other player (good for you, not so good for your playmate). Roll a question mark and your playmate gets to decide which of your animals you have to try to stack next.

Depending on the nature of the pyramid, larger animals usually offer more of a challenge. Roll the alligator symbol and you get to put one of your animals next to, but touching the alligator. This gives both players a larger base for their pyramid, and makes the whole game a bit easier.

That’s just about all there’s to it. Just enough luck to keep the game even, just enough challenge to keep the game inviting. Just large enough to be endearing.

There are a couple more rules that make the game a little more forgiving. If, on your turn, one or more of the animals fall off the stack, you take one or two of them back and put the rest of the fallen animals back into the box. So the penalty is not as egregious as the collapse of the pyramid might indicate.

All-in-all, a well, shall we say, “balanced” dexterity game that offers a meaningful challenge, and an even more meaningful invitation to fun with a friend.

One such friend of mine is Douglas Wilson. He loves Animal upon Animal and was especially excited to learn that there are different animals in this set than in the Animal upon Animal Game (with 14 different animals, plus alligator) and of course Animal upon Animal Balancing Bridge (with another 14 different animals).

All the versions of the Animal upon Animal games are designed by Klaus Miltenberger, with art by Michael Bayer. This set is for two players – kids 4 and up (which could mean you) – and is available in the US from Haba and others.

Bop It Smash

Filed Under (Dexterity, Party Games, Tops for 2012) by Bernie DeKoven on 06-07-2012

If you were looking for an electronic game to exemplify why the Major Fun seal was created, you’d need look no further than Hasbro’s Bop It! SMASH. It’s very easy to learn how to play. You don’t have to read the instructions, you don’t even have to take it out of the package it comes in. You, as the package so clearly indicates, simply smash both ends at once. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

The lights blink in sequence. You wait, everso patiently, for the ever-decreasing millisecond that the green light in the center is on, and, well, SMASH! Smash well enough, and you get a bonus round. Continue smashing well and you get to go to the next level, and the next bonus, and the slightly excruciatingly more difficult next level, and then the less threatening but even more excruciatingly difficult bonus round, and on, and excruciatingly on. And if you happen to be altruistic enough to want to share it with someone else, there’s the PASS IT variation (easily selected by moving the switch next to one of the smash-knobs). And, should you seek an even more competitive dialog, you can switch to a multi-player version which allows you to engage in super-fast reflex challenge with up to 5 more people (depending on how much patience and self-restraint you have).

The audio instructions and narrative are enticing, slightly cajoling, often humorous, and a tad, shall we say, sarcastic, but in an inviting, almost lovable way. The game select feature even includes a volume control (either loud or not-so-loud). Ah, so wise these designers. There are three AA batteries required, all of which, bless Hasbro, are included.

Yes, verily, this is not the only Bop It! to have bopped its way into our collective Bop-awareness. There’s the earlier, multi-control Bop It! and the more recent massively multi-controlled Bop It! XT and even the Bop It! iPod/iPad Touch Game. But Bop It! SMASH is the one version that most vividly exemplifies what the Major Fun seal is designed to lead you to – elegantly designed, accessible, intuitive, portable, sharable, engaging, intense fun.

Fastrack a Keeper!

Filed Under (Dexterity, Keeper) by Bernie DeKoven on 17-06-2012

Fastrack, the Major Fun award-winning dexterity game, has proven itself to be one of those games that keep on getting played and played and played again. This takes it beyond  Major Fun, into the realm of pure Keeper-hood.

It’s well-made, all-wood, very easy to learn, takes only a few minutes to play, fun for kids as young as 5, and for adults as old as me. It’s the kind of game you can pick up during a break, and spend just enough harmlessly aggressive energy to come out with everyone laughing. There’s also enough of a possibility that skill has something to do with winning to make you want to keep playing. And just enough noisy, fast fun to keep you from caring.